Sacred-Texts  Neo-Paganism  Index  Previous  Next 

Malleus Maleficarum Part 3

Question XXXIV

Of the Method of passing Sentence upon a Witch who Annuls Spells wrought by Witchcraft; and of Witch Midwives and Archer-Wizards

        THE fifteenth method of bringing a process on behalf of the faith to a definitive sentence is employed when the person accused of heresy is not found to be one who casts injurious spells of witchcraft, but one who removes them; and in such a case the procedure will be as follows. The remedies which she uses will either be lawful or unlawful; and if they are lawful, she is not to be judged a witch but a good Christian. But we have already shown at length what sort of remedies are lawful.
        Unlawful remedies, on the other hand, are to be distinguished as either absolutely unlawful, or in some respect unlawful. If they are absolutely unlawful, these again can be divided into two classes, according as they do or do not involve some injury to another party; but in either case they are always accompanied by an expressed invocation of devils. But if they are only in some respect unlawful, that is to say, if they are practised with only a tacit, and not an expressed, invocation of devils, such are to be judged rather vain than unlawful, according to the Canonists and some Theologians, as we have already shown.
        Therefore the Judge, whether ecclesiastical or civil, must not punish the first and last of the above practices, having rather to commend the first and tolerate the last, since the Canonists maintain that it is lawful to oppose vanity with vanity. But he must by no means tolerate those who remove spells by an expressed invocation of devils, especially those who in doing so bring some injury upon a third part; and this last is said to happen when the spell is taken off one person and transferred to another. And we have already made it clear in a former part of this work that it makes no difference whether the person to whom the spell is transferred be herself a witch or not or whether or not she be the person who cast the original spell, or whether it be a man or any other creature.
        It may be asked what the Judge should do when such a person maintains that she removes spells by lawful and not unlawful means; and how the Judge can arrive at the truth of such a case. We answer that he should summon her and ask her what remedies she uses; but he must not rely only upon her word, for the ecclesiastical Judge whose duty it is must make diligent inquiry, either himself or by means of some parish priest who shall examine all his parishioners after placing them upon oath, as to what remedies she uses. And if, as is usually the case, they are found to be superstitious remedies, they must in no way be tolerated, on account of the terrible penalties laid down by the Canon Law, as will be shown.
        Again, it may be asked how the lawful remedies can be distinguished from the unlawful, since they always assert that they remove spells by certain prayers and the use of herbs. We answer that this will be easy, provided that a diligent inquiry be made. For although they must necessarily conceal their superstitious remedies, either that they may not be arrested, or that they may the more easily ensnare the minds of the simple, and therefore make great show of their use of prayers and herbs, yet they can be manifestly convicted by four superstitious actions as sorceresses and witches.
        For there are some who can divine secrets, and are able to tell things which they could only know through the revelation of evil spirits. For example: when the injured come to them to be healed, they can discover and make known the cause of their injury; and they can perfectly know this and tell it to those who consult them.
        Secondly, they sometimes undertake to cure the injury or spell of one person, but will have nothing to do with that of another. For in the Diocese of Spires there is a witch in a certain place called Zunhofen who, although she seems to heal many persons, confesses that she can in no way heal certain others; and this is for no other reason than, as the inhabitants of the place assert, that the spells case on such person have been so potently wrought by other witches with the help of devils that the devils themselves cannot remove them. For one devil cannot or will not always yield to another.
        Thirdly, it sometimes happens that they must make some reservation or exception in their cure of such injuries. Such a case is known to have occured in the town of Spires itself. And honest woman who had been bewitched in her shins sent for a diviner of this sort to come and heal her; and when the witch had entered her house and looked at her, she made such an exception. For she said: It there are no scales and hairs in the wound, I could take out all the other evil matter. And she revealed the cause of the injury, although she had come from the country from a distance of two miles, saying: You quarrelled with your neighbour on such a day, and therefore this had happened to you. Then, having extracted from the wound many other matters of various sorts, which were not scales or hairs, she restored her to health.
        Fourthly, they sometimes themselves observe, or cause to be observed, certain superstitious ceremonies. For instance, they fix some such time as before sunrise for people to visit them; or say that they cannot heal injuries which were caused beyond the limits of the estate on which they live, or that they can only heal two or three persons in a year. Yet they do not heal them, but only seem to do so by creasing to injure them.
        We could add many other considerations as touching the condition of such persons: as that, after the lapse of a certain time they have incurred the reputation of leading a bad and sinful life, or that they are adulteresses, or the survivors from covens of other witches. Therefore their gift of healing is not derived from God on account of the sanctity of their lives.
        Here we must refer incidentally to witch midwives, who surpass all other witches in their crimes, as we have shown in the First Part of this work. And the number of them is so great that, as has been found form their confessions, it is thought they there is scarcely any tiny hamlet in which at least one is not to be found. And that the magistrates may in some degree meet this danger, they should allow no midwife to practise without having been first sworn as a good Catholic; at the same time observing the other safeguards mentioned in the Second Part of this work.
        Here too we must consider archer-wizards, who constitute the graver danger to the Christian religion in that they have obtained protection on the estates of nobles and Princes who receive, patronize, and defend them. But that all such receivers and protectors are more damnable than all witches, especially in certain cases, is shown as follows. The Canonists and Theologians divide into two classes the patrons of such archer-wizards, according as they defend the error or the person. They who defend the error are more damnable than the wizards themselves, since they are judged to be not only heretics but heresiarchs (24, quest. 3). And the laws do not make much special mention of such patrons, because they do not distinguish them from other heretics.
        But there are others who, while not excusing the sin, yet defend the sinner. These, for example, will do all in their power to protect such wizards (or other heretics) from trial and punishment at the hands of the Judge acting on behalf of the Faith.
        Similarly there are those in public authority, that is to say, public persons such as temporal Lords, and also spiritual Lords who have temporal jurisdiction, who are, either by omission or commission, patrons of such wizards and heretics.
        They are their patrons by omission when they neglect to perform their duty in regard to such wizards and suspects, or to their followers, receivers, defenders and patrons, when they are required by the Bishops or Inquisitors to do this: that is, by falling to arrest them, by not guarding them carefully when they are arrested, by not taking them to the place within their jurisdiction which has been appointed for them, by not promptly executing the sentence passed upon them, and by other such derelictions of their duty.
        They are their patrons by commission when, after such heretics have been arrested, they liberate them from prison without the licence or order of the Bishop or Judge; or when they directly or indirectly obstruct the trial, judgement, and sentence of such, or act in some similar way. The penalties for this have been declared in the Second Part of this work, where we treated of archer-wizards and other enchanters of weapons.
        It is enough now to say that all these are by law excommunicated, and incur the twelve great penalties. And if they continues obstinate in that excommunication for a year, they are then to be condemned as heretics.
        Who, then, are to be called receivers of such; and are they to be reckoned as heretics? All they, we answer, who receive such archer-wizards, enchanters of weapons, necromancers, or heretic witches as are the subject of this whole work. And such receivers are of two classes, as was the case with the defenders and patrons of such.
        For there are some who do not receive them only once or twice, but many times and often; and these are well called in Latin receptatores, from the frequentative form of the verb. And receivers of this class are sometimes blameless, since they act in ignorance and there is no sinister suspicion attaching to them. But sometimes they are to blame, as being well aware of the sins of those whom they receive; for the Church always denounces these wizards as the most cruel enemies of the faith. And if nevertheless temporal Lords receive, keep and defend them, etc., they are and are rightly called receivers of heretics. And with regard to such, the laws say that they are to be excommunicated.
        But others there are who do not often or many times receive such wizards or heretics, but only once or twice; and these are not properly called receptatores, but receptores, since they are not frequent receivers. (Yet the Arch-deacon disagrees with this view; but it is no great matter, for we are considering not words but deeds.)
        But there is this difference between receptatores and receptores: those temporal Princes are always receptatores who simply will not or cannot drive away such heretics. But receptores may be quite innocent.
        Finally, it is asked who are they who are said to be obstructors of the duty of Inquisitors and Bishops against such heretics; and whether they are to be reckoned as heretics. We answer that such obstructors are of two kinds. For there are some who cause a direct obstruction, by rashly on their own responsibility releasing from gaol those who have been detained on a charge of heresy, or by interfering with the process of the Inquisition by wreaking some injury to witnesses on behalf of the Faith because of the evidence they have given; or it may be that the temporal Lord issues an order that none but himself may try such a case, and that anyone charged with this crime should be brought before no one but himself, and that the evidence should be given only in his presence, or some similar order. And such, according to Giovanni d'Andrea, are direct obstructors. They who directly obstruct the process, judgement or sentence on behalf of the Faith, or help, advise or favour others in doing so, although they are guilty of a great sin, are not on that account to be judged heretics, unless it appears in other ways that they are obstinately and wilfully involved in such heresies of witches. But they are to be smitten with the sword of excommunication; and if they stubbornly endure that excommunication for a year, then are they to be condemned as heretics.
        But others are indirect obstructors. These, as Giovanni d'Andrea explains, are those who give such orders as that no one shall bear arms for the capture of heretics except the servants of the said temporal Lord. Such are less guilty than the former, and are not heretics; but they, and also any who advise, help or patronize them in such actions, are to be excommunicated; and if they obstinately remain in that excommunication for a year, they are then to be condemned as if they were heretics. And here it is to be understood that they are in such a way to be condemned as heretics that if they are willing to return, they are received back to mercy, having first abjured their error; but if not, they are to be handed over to the secular Court as impenitents.
        To sum up. Witch-midwives, like other witches, are to be condemned and sentences according to the nature of their crimes; and this is true also of those who, as we have said, remove spells of witchcraft superstitiously and by the help of devils; for it can hardly be doubted that, just as they are able to remove them, so can they inflict them. And it is a fact that some definite agreement is formed between witches and devils whereby some shall be able to hurt and others to heal, that so they may more easily ensnare the minds of the simple and recruit the ranks of their abandoned and hateful society. Archer-wizards and enchanters of weapons, who are only protected by being patronized, defended and received by temporal Lords, are subject to the same penalties; and they who patronize them, etc., or obstruct the officers of justice in their proceedings against them, are subject to all the penalties to which the patrons of heretics are liable, and are to be excommunicated. And if after they have obstinately endured that excommunication for a year they wish to repent, let them abjure that obstruction and patronage, and if not, they must be handed over as impenitents to the secular Court. And even if they have not endured their excommunication for a year, such obstructors can still be proceeded against as patrons of heretics.
        And all that has been said with regard to patrons, defenders, receivers, and obstructors in the case of archer-wizards, etc., applies equally in respect of all other witches who work various injuries to men, animals, and the fruits of the earth. But even the witches themselves, when in the court of conscience with humble and contrite spirit they weep for their sins and make clean confession asking forgiveness, are taken back to mercy. But when they are known, those whose duty it is must proceed against them, summoning, examining, and detaining them, and in all things proceeding in accordance with the nature of their crimes to a definitive and conclusive sentence, as has been shown, if they wish to avoid the snare of eternal damnation by reason of the excommunication pronounced upon them by the Church when they deliberately fail in their duty.
Next: Question XXXV
Finally, of the Method of passing Sentence upon Witches who Enter or Cause to be Entered an Appeal, whether such be Frivolous or Legitimate and Just